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Toward a Mechanistic Understanding of Linguistic Diversity
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2013 (English)In: BioScience, ISSN 0006-3568, 1525-3244, Vol. 63, no 7, 524-535 p.Article in journal (Refereed) PublishedText
Abstract [en]

Our species displays remarkable linguistic diversity. Although the uneven distribution of this diversity demands explanation, the drivers of these patterns have not been conclusively determined. We address this issue in two steps: First, we review previous empirical studies whose authors have suggested environmental, geographical, and sociocultural drivers of linguistic diversification. However, contradictory results and methodological variation make it difficult to draw general conclusions. Second, we outline a program for future research. We suggest that future analyses should account for interactions among causal factors, the lack of spatial and phylogenetic independence of the data, and transitory patterns. Recent analytical advances in biogeography and evolutionary biology, such as simulation modeling of diversity patterns, hold promise for testing four key mechanisms of language diversification proposed here: neutral change, population movement, contact, and selection. Future modeling approaches should also evaluate how the outcomes of these processes are influenced by demography, environmental heterogeneity, and time.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 63, no 7, 524-535 p.
Keyword [en]
biogeography and ecology, geographic patterns, Languages, Linguistic diversity, research methods
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-280551DOI: 10.1525/bio.2013.63.7.6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-280551DiVA: diva2:911279
Available from: 2016-03-11 Created: 2016-03-11 Last updated: 2016-04-07

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Dunn, Michael
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Department of Linguistics and Philology
General Language Studies and Linguistics

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